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Review: Batman #104

Batman #104

Mixing Batman with Saw sounds like an awesome concept. Batman #104 dances around diving into that combination as Batman, Harley Quinn, and Clownhunter have been captured by Ghost-Maker. The first story arc after “The Joker War” continues to stumble as the series fails to excite.

Batman #104 has the group capture by Ghost-Maker bouncing between that and Nightwing and Oracle discussing Bruce’s history with Ghost-Maker. Writer James Tynion IV dips his toes in what could be a very interesting concept and direction. Ghost-Maker forcing Batman to make a tough decision with Clownhunter and Harley Quin while trapped within a room. But, the issue focuses mostly on Bruce’s past with the mysterious Ghost-Maker. By the end, we have learned only a little more than we knew before.

Almost half of the comic is dedicated to the past of Bruce and the anti-hero, about six times as is needed. We already knew they trained together, so adding in a little more is fine but much of the issue sets up the relationship between the two to once again emphasize that Bruce/Batman cares. The focus feels like filler to some extent presenting a sequence extended far more than it needs to be.

Where things would get interesting is presenting Batman with an actual dilemma, one where he needs to make a difficult choice. We get that tease in what looks like the set of Saw. Pitting Batman, Clownhunter, and Harley Quinn together in the situation really emphasizes Ghost-Maker’s point. And while the basics are there, it never really gets to the interesting aspects. That’s teased for the next issue.

Things aren’t helped with the art on the issue which is inconsistent. Ryan Benjamin, Danny Miki, Bengal, and Guillem March all contribute to the issue and it’s noticeable that there’s so many hands in it. There’s a dip in details from segment to segment and at times page to page that’s distracting. While DC has gotten away with multiple artists where things aren’t an issue, Batman #104 features such a variation that it’s jarring at times. Not even the art can really save the issue.

Much like much of the Ghost-Maker arc so far, Batman #104 continues a story which has potential but never quite nails the interesting meat of it. The issues feel like a build-up to what will be a packed final issue that really lays things out. This seems to be Tynion’s pattern with his multiple arcs so far. The initial issues lay out some interesting concepts, dances around them, and the final issue lays out the theme and “conclusion” of the arc. It creates for issues where things don’t feel satisfying and as a reader we’re left with potential with little payoff.

Story: James Tynion IV Art: Ryan Benjamin, Danny Miki, Bengal, Guillem March
Color: David Baron Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation:
Read

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Preview: Batman #104

Batman #104

Written by: James Tynion IV
Art by: Bengal, Guillem March

Ghost-Maker is living up to his spectral name as Batman scours Gotham City for any trace of him…but this deadly new vigilante is going to prove a bloody point to the Dark Knight by murdering both Clownhunter and Harley Quinn. That is, unless they kill each other first!

Batman #104

Preview: Something is Killing the Children Vol. 2

Something is Killing the Children Vol. 2

(W) James Tynion IV (A/CA) Werther Dell’Edera
In Shops: Nov 25, 2020
SRP: $14.99

Erica Slaughter may have slain the monster terrorizing the small Wisconsin town of Archer’s Peak, but the horror is far from over. As her mysterious handler arrives in town to clean up her mess and quarantine the townsfolk, Erica sets off deeper into the woods-because the monster she killed was a mother… and now she needs to kill its children.

GLAAD Award-winning writer James Tynion IV (Batman, The Woods) and artist Werther Dell’Edera (Briggs Land) present the next chapter of the critically acclaimed series that showed the world a new kind of horror.

Collects Something is Killing the Children #6-10.

Something is Killing the Children Vol. 2

Review: Dark Nights: Death Metal The Multiverse That Laughs #1

Dark Nights: Death Metal The Multiverse Who Laughs

I’ve been vocal in my mixed feelings about Dark Nights: Death Metal. The main event has been mixed in quality and the one-shots, while they used to stand out, are now fumbling themselves. Dark Nights: Death Metal The Multiverse Who Laughs is another stumble presenting four stories with few standing out and most being forgettable.

Dark Nights: Death Metal The Multiverse Who Laughs opens with an introduction introducing the scary stories to follow. Written by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, and Joshua Williamson, the intro isn’t so much Cryptkeeper as it’s a tease. Juan Gedeon handles the art, Mike Spicer color, and Troy Peteri the lettering and the art is solidly entertaining. But, the tales the Robin Kings aren’t what’s presented, and sadly what is, is far less interesting. A nice introduction to lay out the concept of the comic but it actually hurts what’s really could have been accomplished with some text on the first page.

Patton Oswalt, Sanford Greene, David Baron, and Josh Reed to a twisted take on Zsasz in “Feeding the Beast”. Sadly, the story itself doesn’t make a whole lot of sense at all. It feels like interesting ideas chopped together without a strong narrative. To say it’s a frustrating start is an understatement and the issue stumbles from there.

The Super-Pets get the spotlight in “The Super-Threats“. Written by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, the story is a Super-Pets spin on DCeased. Krypto returns from space to find a planet ravaged and all that remains are the Super-Pets. It’s a nice horror short story packed in well and filled with a little bit of humor to make it different and stand out from DCeased. Chad Hardin‘s art with color by Enrica Eren Angiolini‘s color is solid as the animals are filled with emotion as the story unfolds. There’s a slight coloring issue when one infected creature is described as having yellow eyes and red teeth and neither being present. Lettering by Carlos M. Mangual really stands out with the unique speech bubbles that makes the story really fun.

In “Hard-Traveled“, Earth has been taken over by Hal Jordon who’s used his power to bring order to the planet. Standing in his way is Green Arrow. Saladin Ahmed‘s story is interesting in concept but sadly doesn’t get enough pages to really stand out. But, it’s a comic I’d love to read. What does stand out is Scot Eaton‘s art. With Norm Rapmund on ink and Hi-Fi on color, the story builds to a Rocky vs. Apollo ending.

Much like the story leading into it, “The Fear Index” also suffers from not enough pages. Steel has to deal with a planet that has been enveloped by Scarecrow’s toxin. It’s a great idea that we’re mostly teased with. Written by Brandon Thomas, the story itself is the trailer for a film we want to see more of. The art by Thomas Mandrake is solid. With color by Sian Mandrake, it comes off as the twisted fear-induced visions you’d expect. It’s not the over the top trip that has been done before but it’s presented as unsettled. That’s helped by Deron Bennett‘s lettering which enhances the hallucinations from the fear toxin. It emphasizes the situation and world.

There are some things to like about Dark Nights: Death Metal The Multiverse Who Laughs. The idea of an anthology telling stories in this twisted world has potential but few are given the space they’re needed to really be interesting. Instead, they all fall short as teases for something far more entertaining. Both the Green Arrow and Steel stories are worthy of their own one-shots and an entire line could be done like the other Dark Multiverse one-shots releases. But, as is, there’s not a lot here to get excited about.

Story: Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Joshua Williamson, Patton Oswalt, Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, Saladin Ahmed, Brandon Thomas
Art: Juan Gedeon, Sanford Greene, Chad Hardin, Scot Eaton, Thomas Mandrake
Color: Mike Spicer, David Baron, Enrica Eren Angiolini, Sian Mandrake, Hi-Fi
Ink: Norm Rapmund
Letterer: Troy Peteri, Josh Reed, Carlos M. Mangual, Deron Bennett
Story: 6.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 6.0 Recommendation: Pass

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Preview: Dark Nights: Death Metal The Multiverse Who Laughs #1

Dark Nights: Death Metal The Multiverse Who Laughs #1

Written by: Patton Oswalt, Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, Brandon Thomas, Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Joshua Williamson, Saladin Ahmed
Art: Juan Gedeon, Sanford Greene, Chad Hardin, Scot Eaton, Thomas Mandrake

The DC Multiverse is a collection of alternate-reality worlds where anything is possible. Each world tells the tale of a possible split in reality, or shows how lives vary depending on a single, solitary decision. But now that the Multiverse has been destroyed, the Batman Who Laughs has used his god like power to create a new Dark Multiverse…a collection of 52 evil worlds, each more terrifying than the last. This one-shot offers the curious-and the brave-a glimpse into the nightmare realities that the Batman Who Laughs has created in tales by creators who know what it means to have a truly twisted sense of misfit humor. An Arkham Asylum even more terrifying than what we know? A world of evil Super Pets? All that and more in these new tales of the Multiverse Who Laughs!

Dark Nights: Death Metal The Multiverse Who Laughs #1

Review: Batman #103

Batman #103

Batman #103 continues a rather middling new arc for the series after the mixed “Joker War”. The issue features Batman battling Ghost-Maker as we learn a little more about the two’s history. Nothing is too surprising or exciting but at the same time, there’s also nothing particularly bad about the issue. It’s a fine, somewhat forgettable read.

Writer James Tynion IV continues his Batman run with a “fight issue”. It’s interspersed with cliché and things we’ve seen so many times before. All it was missing was Ghost-Maker uttering “you have failed this city”. That’s just some of the frustration of the comic. With Ghost-Maker uttering “Bruce” every other page, you wonder who at this point doesn’t know Batman is Bruce Wayne. With Clownhunter standing there… does everyone have to know his identity?

There’s nothing particularly bad about the issue. If you enjoy fights and battles, that’s about it. Whether it’s Batman vs. Ghost-Maker or Clownhunter vs. Harley Quinn, Batman #103 delivers visuals and action over substance. There’s a bit more depth as to the history between Batman and Ghost-Maker but overall you leave the issue with little more than you began the issue with.

Where things do get a bit more fun and interesting is the mentioned Clownhunter vs. Harley Quinn. Harley is attempting to right her ship and do the hero thing again. Clownhunter though, wants his revenge. Watching the two battle it out is actually interesting as Harley mostly plays defense, laying out her vision of going legit. She also has some fun with it all analyzing Clownhunter a bit during their dance. That’s the most interesting aspect of the comic and hints at what Tynion might have been going for presenting the issue as is. We’re supposed to get a little juxtaposition between the two sets of adversaries. But, that never clicks. We generally get some nice visuals and tired cliché where Batman explains how Ghost-Maker’s actions actually hurts things.

Visually, the comic features a trio of creators, Carlo Pagulayan, Danny Miki, and Guillem March. Along with David Baron on color and Clayton Cowles lettering, the art flows between the three with little notice of changing things up. Visually, the comic looks crisp and nice and beyond a weird positioning of Batman at the end the action as presented is interesting. Harley and Clownhunter’s dance especially stands out with its close quarters and humorous tone to it.

As I stated, Batman #103 isn’t a bad comic at all. It’s just rather boring. Much of it feels like things we’ve already seen. That can work if it’s presented in a new or interesting way. As is, we have another “anti-hero” thinking Batman’s actions haven’t worked while Batman explains he sees a bigger picture. It’s an attempt to extend some of the themes from “Joker War” but it never quite works or clicks. Instead, the comic feels like it putters about a bit never getting to the point and extended things out much longer than they should.

Story: James Tynion IV Art: Carlo Pagulayan, Danny Miki, Guillem March
Color: David Baron Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.85 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Preview: Batman #103

Batman #103

Story: James Tynion IV
Art: Guillem March

Batman and Ghost-Maker go toe-to-toe to decide which of them will remain Gotham City’s hero. The city is changing faster than ever in the aftermath of “The Joker War,” and with this change comes increasing dangers as Gotham’s citizens demand that Punchline be released from prison! Plus, Harley Quinn faces certain death at the hands of Clownhunter!

Batman #103

Review: Punchline #1

Punchline #1

Throughout “Joker War,” Punchline to me came off as an attempt to create a new Harley Quinn. A Joker companion that wouldn’t become an anti-hero and instead could remain a villain. As the event progressed, you could tell she was a bit a schemer but as a whole, the character fell a little flat to me in her use. Punchline #1 though is exactly what I’ve been waiting for as far as the character. It’s an exploration of her descent into the world of the Joker and is a not so subtle exploration of Trump’s America.

Written by James Tynion IV and Sam Johns, Punchline #1 is the character’s origin. We get to see her first crossing the path of the Joker and Batman and her journey to become Punchline. It’s an interesting issue that focuses on radicalization and the media.

With an impending trial, Punchline is doing what she can to continue the Joker’s vision, to bring “his joke” to the world. Through a series of podcasts and various characters we learn why a shy, quiet girl would seek out and become a partner to a sadistic murderer. We also get to see society’s reaction to her crimes and their manipulation to profess and cheer on her “innocence”.

The comic is an exploration of Trump’s America. An obvious criminal who has committed horrific acts on the populace and those who are not only willing to look the other way but also support and celebrate him. Punchline is a complicit enabler. She’s the Stephen Miller to the Joker’s Trump. Her mission is logical and focused and she sees her “boss” as a means to an end to achieve her goal which is intertwined with his. And much like the current administration, she uses the media to distort and manipulate the masses to achieve what she needs and wants.

That would make an interesting enough story but Tynion and Johns explore the chaos Punchline sows. We know her crimes and her guilt but she uses social media and specifically podcasting, to build support. We get to see the reaction and radicalization of her supporters as the story builds resulting in large rallies proclaiming her innocence. She’s the celebrity criminal who has duped those around her. It’s a reflection of what we see today with the claims of a rigged election and protests around the country. A group manipulated into believing a fantasy.

Punchline’s “adversary” in Dr. Leslie Thompkins also feels like it’s a stand-in and commentary on our political leadership. Thompkins could easily be the personification of opposition, easily manipulated by Punchline to achieve a goal. Thompkins is Pelosi, Schumer, and Democratic leadership to Punchline’s Trump and McConnell. A well-meaning individual who is out of their element and dealing with a force the likes of which they have never dealt with before. One who is playing a different game by completely different rules.

And again, that would make for an amazing story but there’s more. There’s also the aftermath of the “Joker War”. Already teased in the pages of Batman, those who supported Punchline and the Joker have slithered their way back into society, hiding their allegiance and complicity in the chaos and destruction. Much like the reckoning of those who have supported the abuses of the Trump administration, we are forced to question those around Punchline and where their loyalty lies. Is it with law, order, and justice, or is it with chaos?

This is the challenges we face today with those who just months ago said “f your feelings,” praised kids in cages, and supported the stripping of rights of their fellow Americans still among us. How does society treat them? Are they willing to atone for their sins? Are they the danger that lurks underneath? How can we look at our fellow citizens again and not question where their loyalty is and where they stood when it mattered?

Tynion and Johns are joined by Mirka Andolfo on art. Romulo Fajardo, Jr. provides colors with Gabriela Downie the letterer. For as solid as the writing is, the art matches the quality. It’s a fantastic looking comic with interesting use of panels. It plays off of the framing of the exploration well too. We’re forced to go back and forth between Punchline as she grows into her role and the current impending trial. Through that, we bounce around balancing the different visual aspects of the story including solid use of social media.

It’s all quite effective especially in that the visuals don’t give us an expected spiral into madness. Instead, the visuals take us along a journey of radicalization without shock. We too are asked to join in on the big picture and accept Punchline’s vision. There isn’t shock, there’s an invitation to enjoy through imagery. Like Trump, the visual is key to acceptance.

It’d have been interesting to have read Punchline #1 in the wake of a Trump re-election but that’s not reality. Instead, with President-elect Biden the reality, the comic is a clear exploration of the wake of the last four years and Trump’s America. It also teases what those four years mean for the world as Punchline, much like Trump, has sold his brand to other countries. Punchline’s “joke” is Trump’s nationalism. They’re both a cancer that threatens to engulf us, slowly killing society. Punchline #1 is one of the most intriguing comics to be released this year by the big two and shows that costumed superheroes can explore our society effectively. This is a comic that’s not to be missed.

Story: James Tynion IV, Sam Johns Art: Mirka Andolfo
Color: Romulo Fajardo, Jr. Letterer: Gabriela Downie
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Preview: Punchline #1

Punchline #1

Written by: Sam Johns, James Tynion IV
Art by: Mirka Andolfo

Spinning out of the pages of “The Joker War” comes the first solo book starring the blockbuster new character Punchline. As she faces the consequences for her role in “The Joker War,” the story of how Alexis Kaye became Punchline will take Leslie Thompkins, Harper Row, and Cullen Row on a harrowing journey that reveals a fringe teenager’s radicalization to the ideology of a madman. It’s a terrifying tale so big it demanded an oversize special issue!

Punchline #1
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